An Examination of Strategies for the Control of the Illicit Traffic in Plundered Antiquities

Christine Alder, University of Melbourne
Kenneth Polk, University of Melbourne

This paper examines the strategies available for the control of the flow of plundered archaeological material onto the major market centres such as London and New York. As an illicit trade, the market for antiquities is distinctive since while it is illegal at the point where the material originates (that is, source countries uniformly have regulations prohibiting the illicit extraction of archaeological objects), the sale in the demand countries is legal and carried out openly. It is argued that given the distinctive character of this trade (especially the fact that the purchasers are of exceptionally high social status, and the goods themselves are often extremely expensive) suggests a set of control strategies somewhat different than those proposed for other criminal markets. As is true of other illegal markets, given that demand in the destination countries remains high, control strategies based in attempts to prohibit sale of material in source countries have not been effective. It is suggested, then, that control must target the demand environment, and that a mix of deterrence and "persuasion" strategies will be needed to stem the flow of this illicit material.

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Updated 05/20/2006